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LOOSE  EXDS                                           245
earelully collected, moulded into flat cakes, plastered on the
to dry, and then burned as fuel. Scarcely an ounce of its
goes into the ^oiL with the result that the land becomes poorer
and poorer, more and more starved.
This state of affairs, let us be frank, is discreditable to the
British. Granted the immensity of the task, the religious and com-
munal difficulties with which it is beset, the innate conservatism
of the peasants and the mulish obstructionism* in late years, of
the nationalists, we should somehow or other have surmounted
these problems or at least shown a more determined effort to do
bo. We should have said to ourselves, years ago : "We are faced
with mass poverty ; the poverty is largely due to the inefficiency
of agricultural methods : we must tackle that inefficiency with
every ounce of our energy/ For instance, in this vital matter of
fertilizers, we should either have provided the peasant with some
other form of fuel than cow dung (which would have meant
gigantic schemes of afforestation), or we should have made other
fertilizers available to him—whereas, in fact, we have exported
^ern in, large quantities, notably groundnut eake and bones.
Admittedly, in some respect we have shown ourselves worthy of
our great traditions. Perhaps the happiest example, on our credit
side, is irrigation—a prime problem in a country like India where
for months in the year there is not a drop of rain. The British
have given India the largest irrigation system in the world__the
area brought under cultivation is nearly 55 million acres.
But our very success in this instance only shows up our other
failures in, sharper relief. To consider the matter from another
angle, we have shown no really serious effort to tackle the social
evils which choke the whole Indian agricultural system like ram-
pant weeds. You cannot fertilize the earth by legislation, nor
bring crops into existence by the stroke of a pen, but you can—if
you have the physical strength, as we have—pass laws which
will break the shackles binding the limbs of the workers on the
soil. It does not matter that the shackles are of Indian manu-
facture, nor that any attempt to remove them would cause uproars
**ad protests—the business of a ruler is to rule, and this is one of
the occasions where we have not done our business.
For instance, the worst pest of Indian agriculture, the blight